Composing Music

Denemo – music notation software

Denemo is a graphical user interface musical notation editor. It is intended primarily as a frontend to Lilypond, an automated engraving system, but the software is also adaptable to other computer-music-related purposes as well. Denemo is mature software having been in development since 1999.

Music can be typed in at the PC keyboard, or played in via MIDI (external link) controller, or input acoustically into a microphone plugged into the soundcard of a computer.

Denemo itself does not engrave the finished score for printout. Instead, it uses LilyPond which produces sheet music to the highest publishing standards. Denemo displays the staffs in a slim and efficient way, allowing the musician to enter and edit the music efficiently.

Denemo uniquely offers methods to enter music in a musical, rather than mechanical, manner. This can be used for transcribing scores.

Features include:

  • Input:
    • Load .denemo files, import midi, lilypond and musicXML.
    • Support for MIDI Instruments, keyboard only or with a little help from your mouse.
    • Any function can be (re-)assigned to any keystroke, keystroke combo, MIDI signal or mouse movement.
    • Choose what your keyboard does:
      • Select a duration first.
      • Insert notes of a specific duration directly.
      • Create a rhythmic layer first that can be filled with pitches.
      • Choose pitch by note names.
      • or move a cursor with your arrow keys.
    • Combine the above in any combination.
    • Many functions to alter and modify existing notation. Transpose, shift, augment, diminish, randomize, sort etc.
  • Output:
    • Produce prints, images and music files and route your music in real time to other applications:
      • PDF Generation for print.
      • Image export for snippets or full scores.
      • Export as audio file.
      • Playback with an internal sampler.
      • Route your midi or audio data to other applications (e.g. with JACK).
      • Besides PDF, Denemo outputs scores in LilyPond files (.ly), MIDI and PNG.
  • Other notable features:
    • All kinds of historical or special notation such as figured bass, historic noteheads and barlines.
    • NotationMagick: Various commands to generate music randomly, from text, numbers, patterns. Also modifies existing music with shuffling, sorting, transposing etc.
    • Scripting Interface – Create macros by recording your commands or write sophisticated functions in Scheme.
    • Integrate Lilypond text and commands directly into the musical structure. Even if a feature is not directly supported you can still get it by simply inserting the Lilypond text.
    • Music notation functions accessible via keyboard shortcuts.
    • Score Layouts – print a variety of score layouts without altering the score.
    • Tooltips.

Support: Manual
Developer: Richard Shann, Jeremiah Benham, Nils Gey, and contributors
License: GNU General Public License v3.0


Denemo is written in C and Scheme. Learn C with our recommended free books and free tutorials. Learn Scheme with our recommended free books and free tutorials.

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